You’ve probably read dozens of articles boasting the amazing health benefits of eating the pink fleshed fish. You most likely order a nice cut of rich, succulent salmon in a simple lemon sauce at your favorite seafood restaurant. But when it comes to picking out salmon at your local market, you’re clueless. No worries, though, with this salmon buyer’s guide you’ll soon be a pro at shopping for the fish.

Although frozen salmon is available all year long, nothing beats fresh salmon. First of all, whether you are buying steaks or fillets, there are a few things you should keep an eye out for. When buying salmon you want to look for a nice, bright pink color. The flesh should be firm to the touch; if you press your finger into it, the flesh should bounce back. The smell should be fresh, slightly reminiscent of the sea and ozone; it shouldn’t have a fishy smell to it. The fish shouldn’t be at all sticky or tacky. If you’re buying a whole fish, the eyes should be bright and clear, rather than sunken in and cloudy. The gills should be a deep red and the skin shiny. Again it should feel firm to the touch.

Next up in this salmon buyer’s guide we address different salmon cuts. Dressed means that the gills and guts have been removed; about 12 oz of this cut works as a single serving size. Pan-dressed means that the head, tail, fins and scales have been removed and it’s ready to cook. Steaks are cross-section slices of salmon that are ready to cook. Fillets are pieces cut from the sides of the salmon; they are generally boneless and skinless and can be cooked as is or cut into cubes or chunks. Pieces or chunks refer to the center section of the salmon.

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Of course, when buying salmon you have the choice of wild salmon, farm raised and organic farm raised. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is best; it’s a little more expensive, but well worth the price. Farmed organic comes next in line when it comes to quality and taste.

Finally, the best place to buy salmon, according to many salmon aficionados and many a salmon buyer’s guide, is at your local fish market or fishmonger’s. Here you’re bound to get the freshest catch.


The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has accurate, up to date information on the fish species off the coast of the most northern state.

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